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Archive for August, 2008

Free Karate

August 31st, 2008 at 07:10 am

BM is very active and we were thinking of letting him try baseball last year and whimped out. We decided to enjoy our last few months free of schedules and such. Since he was to start kindergarten this month.

Anyway, I knew soccer was a fall sport and I did look into it, but sign ups were ages ago. Egads.

I should put the baseball/softball dates on the calendar, and soccer - as a reminder to be a little more on the ball. (unintended pun).

For the best, he seems overwhelmed with school. I discussed with dh and we decided no new activities for the year. It's only K, but it is all day and they have PE, art and even spanish. I think he has enough to occupy him. Best of all, all that is "free."

BUT I did pick up the community center catalog on a whim, while at aerobics yesterday morning. (My $2.50 aerobic/yoga class. I can't imagine life without that gem. LOVE the community center).

I had already perused it online, and didn't expect much. Will probably keep it financially low key the rest of the year and such. & considering our talks of giving BM a break.

BUT as I flipped through, dh did mention that BM has talked much about going to his karate class.

We dropped it because it was moved from evening to 4:30; a terrible time. But it was "only" $7.50 per class and was just AWESOME. He LOVED it. Now it fits in rather well as an after-school activity. So we can reconsider it.

So we decided to sign him up yesterday. The $30/month would not make or break us.

I was also pleased when I hurriedly signed up online, before month-end when it becomes an infinitely more complicated sign-up process, I was so pleased to see that they dropped all service charges for online registration. IT was only $2-$3 per class but it just annoyed me to no end.

So instead I was charged a flat $30, and life is good.

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No, not exactly free.

BUT my parents called me with an interesting proposition yesterday. They wanted to add on to our Verizon family plan. They pay $50/month for some ancient/bare bones Verizon plan and we pay $80/month for some newer Verizon family plan. We've had it forever and shop around every couple of years, but recently upgraded to a modern plan from our ancient one. It's nice to actually have minutes.

I primarily use my phone for emergencies and to talk to my spouse (free) and to KIT with out parents ("free" long distance). The rest of our family as well.

But I have gone over my minutes a few times talking to my mom WAY too much. I don't believe my parents had the benefit of talking to anyone in Verizon free since they have such an old plan. We could maybe just be misinformed...

Anyway, it only cost $20/month to add their 2 lines, and it turns out we could have different area codes, and I guess really we don't even have to be family. I am LOVING this.

We will split the bill in half, which means our bill will probably go down from $80/month to $50/month. Big Grin

What a nice little surprise.

& that pretty much covers BM's karate passion, for a while.

The best part was I was trying to talk my folks into coming up for a visit, and they decided to come up last minute to get our phones set up. So they came up yesterday and we had a delightful visit. Now I just have to get used to calling my mom on her cell.

We decided to stick with our 700-minute plan since we mostly call each other anyway. My parents did not have free roaming or long distance, or any minutes for that matter, so this is quite an upgrade for them, for the same price they were paying. Anyway, I will monitor our usage and we'll give it a whirl. I don't expect we will have to upgrade our minutes, but I guess we should test it all out before I get too excited... We'll see how the month goes.

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Anyway, MIL is still very excited to pay for piano lessons for BM, but I think it is all way too much for right now. I think ideally I should have been teaching him more when he was younger. He was so bored with reading so early on (he had SUCH a letter obsession as a baby he knew the entire alphabet at 18 months and could read well enough at 2.5) I considered teaching him to read music as a way to challenge him. I figured he was certainly ready and maybe it would REALLY Stick to learn at age 4. But I was lazy and never really got around to it.

At this point he is so busy at school, it's like, what's the hurry. What's another 6 months. But with MIL's promise to foot the bill, we will get around to it while he is 5, I am sure. I started piano lessons at 6 so I know the world will not end if we wait a year... More age, maturity, and patience is probably preferred.

I think it is important for the kids to learn music, and not so sure the public schools will come through like they did for us, in these times. BUT I also don't expect BM to be much of a musician. LM is clearly the musical one. So we'll see. I have the feeling LM will fare more with music lessons and band practices, and that BM will be rather sporty. Which is interesting since no one in our family has ANY interest in sports, but we will brave those waters for our child. Wink

LM has NO interest in letters and reading, even at 3, but he already composes his own music. So the differences in their brains is CLEAR.

I assume he has no interest in sports like the rest of us, but that is probably a pretty broad assumption for now. Having a big brother to look up to changes the playing field, as it were. He may be more interested in keeping up with big bro than seriously considering his own wants. Or maybe he will genuinely be sporty too... I just don't see it, for now.

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Well, it's the lifestyle I have been dreading. Kindergarten! School! Schedules!

It really hasn't started out so bad.

BM had friday off, and monday off of course.

There doesn't seem to be much rushing with a 8:30 start time (& a 2-minute-drive to the school).

& for now, this is the start time through 5th grade. I am rather pleased with it all.

It IS an adjustment consulting the calendar when it comes to appointments and such. & I am sure it will SUCK when it comes to vacations. I just realized BM has the most time off the beginning of April (2 weeks) and the last 2 weeks of december (rather standard). The bummer thing is those are my BUSIEST times at work. So I don't know. The only time he really seems to have off that works as far as vacation, is July/August. What a crappy/busy time to travel...

About my only gripe for now.

Awesome News/ ??? News

August 29th, 2008 at 10:41 am

BM had his first fillings today.

#1 Awesome news - he took it like a PRO. Dh said he was totally fine. I called him afterwards and asked if he was scared. He just laughed and said no. "Why would I be scared?" Yup, that's my kid.

His boldness has calmed down a bit with age, thank goodness, but is a great asset in a time like this. (When he is older I am afraid he will be a sky diver though. !! It has its pluses and minuses).

It's funny because LM is the epitome of caution - so raising a daredevil and raising Mr. Cautious is just kind of a funny comparison, at times. I keep thinking thank goodness BM is the one with the cavities. Simply because he can handle it.

So that is AWESOME news.

Also, they only thought half of the 8 molar cavities would need filling, but wouldn't know for sure until they got in there.

True to their estimation, he only needed one filling today. The other one they drilled a bit to smooth it out, but was all it needed.

Yay!!!!!!

One down, 3 to go in that regard. I hope all the rest turn out the same - pretty much what they had told me.

He also has 3 front teeth to fill. So still a long ways to go, regardless... They want to do it in 4 more visits. I can only hope all the other visits go so well. But this was definitely a positive start to the whole process.

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The other interesting news that I am not sure how to classify is that the kids' daycare is selling their house. Frown

I just don't know what to think. They said they don't plan to move far but want to downsize their HUGE yard. I am trying to brace myself for the possibility they move farther out. I don't know what we'll do. They are "family." I can not imagine sending my kid elsewhere. I am not sure we would. I wanted LM to have the same awesome experience that BM did.

I did notice a daycare (new) on the street behind ours so it could be something to look into. But I don't like the idea at all. I am happy with where we have been sending our kids for the last 2 years. !!!

I had a few thoughts.

Thoughts one and two, it may take a long while to sell and be a rather moot point, or they might not be able to sell at all... & I mean, if it takes a year, I think we will be ready to move on at that point anyway.

Third thought was they could move closer or even be more convenient.

But farther out, I just don't know. It's already a bit out of the way.

I guess it is a little too soon to get worked up about. But we'll see...

We will probably have much to think about if the move comes to fruition.

For now I guess I won't worry about it. Could be months if not years... In this market.

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Thank goodness for the long weekend. Just one of those weeks where I NEED it. Big Grin

I think I mentioned already - weekend plans to swim, go to the park, and maybe go for a hike. Attempting no-spend. We'll see.

Stress is Decreasing a Bit

August 28th, 2008 at 07:38 am

I stayed a little late at work yesterday to prepare some rebates. I had thought the due dates were not clear when I realized one was to be postmarked yesterday! So I went to the post office. Gah.

Mailed $90 in rebates, cell phone and computer related - will help the bottom line.

Looking at the credit card bill and feeling better able to tackle it, though we maybe weren't the best this month. We could have saved another $100-$200 through extreme diligence. We can try again next month. We'll be boring homebodies; I think we will survive.

Trying to spend no gas through the rest of the month - $100 under budget as is. Phew!

If we had bought no clothing or stayed in from our fancy dinner out we would have another $150 to spare. Then again, I am not sure my boss would appreciate my worn clothing for one more month. But we have September to redo and save some cash. (& October & November as well - living some lean months).

Anyway, today was the first day I wasn't stressed about it all. & I have dh to thank. He has REALLY come through. This is the man I remember.

Today the credit card sits at $3k and we have no plans but for a few groceries this weekend. We'll see, but I think we can have a no-spend week otherwise. (Credit card closes Wednesday so we have a full week left to be very frugie).

$3,000 August credit card bill
- 400 airfare reimbursement from mom
- 1400 budget
- 200 ebay sales (dh)
- 100 focus group (dh)
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$ 900 Shortfall

Really, all of it is the new computer. Or $800 computer & $100 fridge repair, I guess.

I don't mind pulling $300 from savings, for the full fridge repair. What that is for.

So I guess $900 - $300 = $600 to contend with - all computer.

I expect a $250 rewards check (Credit card) in a month. We got it WAY early with all this stuff. & about $100 in rebates.

So in the end leaves us with $250 shortfall in the long run.

I guess pulling out $250 from savings for a brand new computer is not a huge deal in the end. Why I am starting to feel better as I tally the numbers.

Plus, at this rate, dh will easily make $250 next month. I think I will even ask him to try to hit that goal.

Reminds me, it isn't done yet. The kids both have doctor appointments and BM starts his dental fillings this week as well. The medical stuff is covered by the medical fund; not a prob.

BUT dental, I don't know. I made some appointments in October because he has so many Fridays off. As long as it doesn't hurt to wait another month, I think it will be nice to spread the costs out a bit.

I also have around $1k in the medical fund to take care of the first 6 fillings or so (there may only be 7).

There is a very slight chance I won't have to drain my mid-term savings below $3k. VERY slight. I won't hold my breath...

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Oh yeah, I thought I was getting better at editing myself around people terrible with money. But now, I don't think so. LOL. I have just been less annoyed of late and thought I was getting better.

But I ran into someone yesterday who is totally broke, having a new baby, and not sure if they can afford all the new crib and changing tables and such.

I am thinking to myself, "Why are you buying NEW?????? Why are you buying a changing table?" Certainly not the first thing on my list if I Were broke. (& this is their second child - they should know how useless some of those expensive baby things are).

I just find it ironic when we weren't broke we bought secondhand stuff and skipped a lot of the nonsense.

I guess it's not ironic. It's why we tend to not be broke.

But you know, you just want to shake these people.

Instead I didn't say anything. I've learned to not say anything. It wouldn't have gone over well. So I guess I edited myself, but boy I did have to gripe about it.

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The only other thing I can think of coming up is HAlloween. The kids have 2 very nice outfits which I will probably put up on ebay. We will use the cash to buy something else. So I am pleased with that. I don't think halloween will cost us anything in that regard.

This year the kids are huge on spiderman. They want to be Spiderman and IceMan. In fact, LM generally insists he is IceMan anymore.

I don't even know who IceMan is. LOL. They've moved into decidedly more BOY territory.

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Oh yeah, the ticket talk reminded me. There is no parking on the street in front of the school (& the parking lot is terribly tiny. It used to be the back parking lot for the middle school - it's a charter school without a permanent location - we just make do with what we can get).

Anyway, dh asked if I had just parked there and I asked him if he was crazy. The government is looking for money and the last thing I need is a ticket. I can walk a few blocks. Which I only did the first couple of days while I gaged the traffic. Drop off is working out okay.

Anyway, yesterday there was someone out there issuing tickets and wouldn't you know a number of people stopped (& got out of their cars!!!!) anyway.

I don't know what people are thinking...

The city must be loving this windfall. !

& my kids keep asking, "How come no one follows the rules?" We have a new playground being built and there were people taking their toddlers in there with exposed metals and NO ground covering. It was totally insane. & the kids want to go in and you have to explain those people are stupid and no you can not go play in the extremely dangerous/unfinished playground. People have just lost their minds or something... IT's been months and I know they are sick of seeing everyone else play in the playground. & everyone else park on the street while we walk. etc., etc., etc.

Staycation

August 27th, 2008 at 07:21 am

I think reality has sit in with dh - I think he has decided not to go to the Bay this weekend.

Anyway, I read my fellow local blogger maismom said she was thinking "staycation" for the 3-day-weekend.

I certainly have the same plans.

I guess this is where I feel blessed to have a flexible job (something I really wouldn't have any other way).

I notice more and more over the years how the masses pile up their cars on 3-day-weekends and head out.

Sounds absolutely horrific to me - the traffic and crowds. We try to limit our vacations to 3-day-weekends that aren't 3-day-weekends for everyone. Or maybe just shortened weekends - avoiding the crowds.

So, as usual, I have no Labor Day plans. I think it is a great time to stay home. Big Grin Perhaps BBQ and do so stuff local. But no, would not be one to go camping or head out of town for the weekend. Blech.

The state fair is going on, but in past years we weren't impressed and as we are pinching pennies it is not something we are planning.

I think this is the last weekend the pool is open so we will hit the pool, maybe 3 times, and we may visit Fairytale Town (a few minutes drive - which will probably be empty anyway). & there will mostly be hanging out at home. Not much else I rather do. Though it may be a good time for a local hike - depends on the weather. That is something to think on.

I am planning on taking the week of Thanksgiving off which isn't terribly exciting, but is also not a huge travel time on that M-T, or the weekend before (on the roads). So we will have to think on how we may take advantage of that time. BM will be out of school. I was also thinking of taking a couple of Fridays off in December - we will probably do some traveling then. Monterey and/or San Francisco, with or without kids.

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Reminds me, as much as I don't do crowded 3-day weekends, I am also not a fan of traffic. Ugh!

I don't know what it was Monday but it was TRAFFIC everywhere. It really sucked. No doubt contributed to my grumpy mood. Seems to have been an isolated incident. I wonder if school was starting back or what, for many people. It just seemed everywhere I went...

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Anyway, I am officially sick but it is very mild. Dh said he thinks he got it too. The kids would never slow down to let us know - I should probably look in their throats to see if they are suffering the same fate.

It's 7am and BM is still asleep. That boy is whooped. (The kids delight at waking up before 6am, usually. It's strangely quiet at this 7am hour).

I still didn't get any sleep because at 1am LM let out a scream in his sleep. I think him? I don't know - the kids have it out for me. It's been that way every night lately. I was awaken by weird noises the other night just to find them fast asleep.

LM I give kudos too - he is usually too fearful to get up and potty on his own so he just whimpers or calls us quietly. I hear it all though - dh just sleeps through. So last night I awoke at 2am (the witching hour lately) to a door slam. Not only had LM gotten up by himself, but he closed (slammed) the door so the light wouldn't bother anyone. Probably at the request of dh. Which is fine, except it was a bit loud. BM and dh were none the wiser. I would not say I am a light sleeper, but no, I can not sleep like the dead like those two. Gah. & when it comes to the kids - yeah - I hear everything. It's a mom thing. Dh, bless him, was always great with the kids when they were infants, night shift and such. BUT sometimes it wasn't helpful because I would often wake up just BEFORE the kids did or often I would hear them and he wouldn't. Which only helps so much. If you're wide awake anyway, and your spouse is snoring away through the screams, might as well get up. Wink The last few nights were very deja vu in that regard.

I figured LM would need help anyway so up I was, last night.

I can't help but wonder if I got a night of uninterrupted sleep, if my sore throat may go away. *sigh*

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The kids have doctor checkups this week, and BM has his first dental fillings. Ugh. What a $$$$$ week it is. Though dh and I did joke we would get billed for these doctor appointments in a year. Not too much to stress over. They are maddening. The bills trickle in slower than molasses. I think it has been over 6 months since our ambulance adventure with BM and still no bill for the ambulance? It's maddening to me to have no idea how much it cost. The only plus is it may cost 0 because BM may use his entire deductible in the interim. & if we don't use ours, we may come out ahead. Imagine that?

Yeah, not holding my breath. But wishing and hoping, all the same. Could really use a lot of that medical savings for dental bills.

Hey they plus side is this is good for our taxes. My tax bill is going down by the second. OF course even that isn't terribly exciting at a 15% tax rate. For every $1k we spend on dental bills, we save $150? I guess it's like a built-in 15% discount.

Our medical deductions may be more than the max HSA anyway. Not what I would have wished, but yeah, we're not going the HSA route this year. For sure. At best we could have put $3k away, instead we will probably get to deduct $5k in expenses. (portion over 7.5% of our income - lucky us. Our medical expenses & premiums (including dental) run 15% gross income. I am just trying to look at the bright side). I am most definitely getting a tax refund - overwithheld by a few hundred, at this rate.

Grumpy Monkeys

August 26th, 2008 at 07:40 am

Gah, what a night. Everyone is so grumpy. LOL.

BM had his first full day of Kinder, and I am afraid it whooped him.

A long time napper I didn't expect it to really matter as he has outgrown naps for a few months. & we have been pushing bed time earlier and earlier, inch by inch, in preparation.

But he had a fit I guess yesterday afternoon and feel asleep amidst it all. & he was REALLY grumpy when he woke up (When I got home).

He eventually snapped out of it when we played an hour long game of "Hide the Wombat."

LOL.

LM just has the funniest stuffed wombat toy (funny looking but cute) and the kids just giggled like loons as we took turns hiding it. Doesn't take much to amuse them. Wink Of course, mommy put the wombat in the silliest of places so they loved that.

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Anyway, LM was up from about 2am-4am last night. I have NO IDEA what his deal was. HE woke up and said he wet his pants, but he hadn't and then he just would not sleep. Around 4am dh coaxed him back to sleep I gave up.

So I am just exhausted between those 2.

I jinxed myself though. Some stuff been going around and from being sick constantly, we have suddenly not been sick for a LONG while. I mentioned to dh like 2 days ago, knocking on wood and knowing I shouldn't think it, much less say it aloud.

Wouldn't you know, I have a sore throat now? Bah!

Jinxed!

& the kids behavior has been so odd I am worried they are feeling a little under the weather too.

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Dh was invited to a red egg and ginger party this weekend in the Bay Area.

[url]http://chinesefood.about.com/library/weekly/aa012303a.htm[/url]

Sure, sounds fun, but do we need to spend any more money this month? We kind of fought about that last night. I told him hell no. But you know, I am a softie and if he REALLY wants to go.

I know, sometimes it is hard to believe that my dh is really the most frugal saver I know. It doesn't shine through very much in recent years. $800 on a computer, $300 in fridge repairs, and a potential $2k dental bill, all in ONE month, and he can't understand why one little trip to the Bay Area is a little excessive.

I was rethinking because the gas will only be $30. I can raise $30 from Craigslist before the weekend perhaps. BUT he should probably bring a gift. & that right there makes a $50 trip with money we simply don't have (& that being cheap!).

Oh yeah, and he wants to spend $20 on poker too.

I am afraid there will be other parties.

To think we almost made it a whole month without a long car trip. We'll see...

The sucker in me knows he doesn't get out much and I hate to say no. But egads, why does it have to be so expensive?

So yeah, we're all just grumpy.

Thoughts on Relocation...

August 25th, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I thought my renter friends were moving to Oregon to pay cash for their houses and/or enjoy significantly lower costs of living.

I overlooked that they were doing it the American way. What they really wanted was a giant asset to borrow six figures against.

I mentioned more people seem to be moving back to the state, as prices lower, just as I expected.

But I just learned why some are resistant to the idea. One friend just mentioned "because I can not afford to sell my house."

I read that to mean, "I put 0% down and/or borrowed large sums against it.

Oh my. The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. You'd think I'd learn by now.

This person has a Cali job so they can't blame lower wages for not helping their SIGNIFICANTLY decreased cost of living.

No wonder so many people look at our young faces and big house and tsk tsk behind our back. It's the American way. They obviously have not paid close attention to our old cars. I can't imagine what they imagine we have been financing. Even dh's computer/video fancies cost little more than $1k/year. Nowhere near the realm of borrowing six figures for...

But yeah, the old fashioned way of buying a house - it doesn't occur to anyone we went that route. Put 20% down, pay down a 30-year note, and after 9 years or so you have some decent equity (we've paid off 30%, and even better the principal payments are increasing greatly now). While everyone is complaining that the sky is falling we are looking at our average 3% annual real estate returns and wondering where exactly the sky is falling.

Anyway, mostly I am annoyed by myself for being completely shocked by that comment. I will never *get* the masses.

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Reminds me though, if you were curious at all. We have been here about 6.5 years in our cheaper cost of living safe haven.

Before when people asked me where I Was from, I Was confused. Where am I from? You mean my real and true home or the place where I Was able to get a steal on my dream house, and where I now live, work and raise my kids? I am not really from here.

But it happened.

Just a few weeks ago someone asked me and the kids where we were from. "Sacramento" just rolled off my tongue.

It took a little over 6 years, but it's HOME now.

I realized to I have spent a greater part of my adult life here. Just about anyway. Maybe that's the tipping point. 18-24 San Jose. 25-32 Sacramento.

I haven't even griped much about the weather this year. I am adjusting...

& anyway, it's official. Dh lived in the same home from age 0-23 or so. Which may be a little extreme. But I lived in the same home from age 4-18. We both wanted to settle before our kids start school.

So now that BM is in school, I feel like we are stuck in a sense. We don't want to pick up and move. I think it is pretty official that we would like to stay put the next 15 years or so, until the kids are done with school.

We're boring that way. Wink

I guess while everyone is panicking too I am thinking it is nice my kids may afford to live in the area as adults after all. I think that is the greatest travesty where my parents live. We'll probably inherit millions in real estate. But really, we just wanted to live our adult lives where we grew up, without being slaves to mortgages/rents. I Feel lucky we only had to move 2 hours away. But I'd give up the millions to be able to drop in on my parents any time. *sigh* & I was sad it was looking the same for our kids. I had no idea where they would live. So honestly, I would love it if prices settled down for the long term. Not planning on going anywhere. That is for sure...

But yeah, I have as many friends here now as I used to back home. I know the lay of the land. I know short cuts when the freeway is backed up. I understand the local lingo. It took a few years, but I think I am feeling rather comfy here. Big Grin Which is good since I think we will be here a while.

IT wasn't long here before we realized we would probably never move back home (no matter what). Life is way simpler here. BUT it still took a while to get into that comfort zone. To appreciate the area for more than the affordability.